By Eric Drumm
Marvel has always liked to ask "What if?" Creating alternate worlds such as those seen in the Age of Apocalypse or in the Ultime line, even the smallest shifts in reality can bring about drastic changes. The world of HOUSE OF M was a recreation of the Marvel Universe through the eyes of the mentally plagued Scarlet Witch
. Reality was eventually restored and things returned to normal, but we were left wondering how expansive that world really was. Announced at Wizard World Philadelphia, AVENGERS: HOUSE OF M fills in some of the gaps and spotlights characters that we didn't get to see in the original HOUSE OF M mega event. Editors Tom Brevoort and Bill Rosemann, along with writer Christos Gage, tell us whats up with the November-shipping five-issue mini-series.
Even though the HOUSE OF M story took place in 2005, fans and creators alike just couldn't get enough of the mutant-dominated world. With so much untold history, it was a no-brainer to pull back the curtain. Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort says that it came together easily. "HOUSE OF M remains a popular and significant story in the Marvel pantheon, and even with all of the assorted tie-ins and specials, we had only really scratched the surface of exploring that alternate landscape. And just as importantly, the various HOUSE OF M collections continue to have very strong sales velocity. So it was [Marvel Senior Vice President Sales and Circulation] David Gabriel who suggested doing a new HOUSE OF M project to capitalize on this demand, and it was Bill Rosemann and Christos Gage who came up with the idea of telling the untold story of how Luke Cage
went from being a convict to being the underworld freedom fighter we encountered in HOUSE OF M."
Bill Rosemann says he saw a huge opportunity to tell a heck of a superhero story. "With the collected editions of HOUSE OF M still continuing to attract new readers, Tom Brevoort came to me and asked me to come up with another five issues that brought readers back to the HOUSE OF M story. But rather than hatching five one-shots (since most of the main characters' story was already told in their existing minis), I asked if I could tell the untold story of how Luke Cage went from prisoner to crime lord to freedom fighter.
"I was rereading the HOUSE OF M collection and came to a screeching halt when I saw Luke sitting there in his Hell's Kitchen office surrounded by some of my favorite heroes (like Iron Fist, Cloak
and Black Cat). How did he gather all these kick-butt heroes? And why did he choose to risk everything to fight for freedom? That's the story that grabbed me, and luckily, it also intrigued the decision makers here at Marvel. Next I reached out to Christos Gage and Mike Perkins--two guys who I know excel at street-level superheroics--and then the fun really began!"
With the powers that be greenlighting the series, it was up to writer Christos Gage to bring Power Man-era Luke Cage and his band of streetwise heroes to life. Using Luke's mainline Marvel U. history as reference, Gage saw the perfect setting for his homeboy Luke Cage to shine. "I was looking at the core HOUSE OF M mini-series and realized that [HOUSE OF M writer Brian Michael] Bendis had set a date for the end of the human/mutant wars: 1979," notes Gage. "How could I resist beginning our story back in the day? And that meant getting the chance not only to use Luke's yellow shirt, but some of the more, shall we say, pimpalicious members of his rogues' gallery, like Cockroach Hamilton and Piranha Jones! [Artist] Mike Perkins is as big a fan of that era as I am, so he added his own tributes. Savvy readers will spot a couple of panels that hearken back to classic HERO FOR HIRE and POWER MAN covers," he gleefully adds.
With '70s Luke Cage, mutants galore and literally a world of possibilities, the cool factor for AVENGERS: HOUSE OF M goes into hyperdrive. Who wouldn't want to see the Heroes For Hire fighting for 'sapien rights? Christos Gage couldn't be more happy to write the quintessential bad dude, Luke Cage and his adventures. Is he having fun? "Hell yeah!" he exclaims in his best Luke Cage baritone. "When I was a nerdy white kid in the late '70s/early '80s, there was no one who exemplified 'badass' to me more that Luke Cage. Now, as a nerdy white adult, I had despaired of ever getting to write Luke because we all know about the immense man-crush Bendis has on him; I figured I might have to have Brian whacked if I was to ever get a shot at Luke. But Bill Rosemann saved me from a prison stretch (during which I would gladly have volunteered for shady experiments) by offering me HOUSE OF M: AVENGERS. Not only do I get to write Luke, I get to write him as I remember him best! I'm in geek heaven!"
AVENGERS: HOUSE OF M takes place against the Marvel Universe's favorite battle arena: New York City. NYC in the late '70s had a diverse culture, but also a notorious reputation. Films such as DEATH WISH and THE WARRIORS painted a picture of New York that was brimming with crime and filth. According to Gage, Luke Cage's New York serves as a poignant landscape for the ensuing battle. "I was born in New York in the '70s. There was a cult living in the building across from us. Their leader died, and they sat around waiting for him to rise again. He didn't, but he sure stunk up the neighborhood something fierce," he remembers creepily. "That was New York back then. The landscape of the city is very much a part of things--this is the pre-Disney Times Square you're seeing. The volatility is that much more intense in the HOUSE OF M world. Mike Perkins has a book of photos of the city back then, so he's making it all look very authentic...just adding tons of mutants!" History tells us that Luke Cage does not under any circumstance stand for jibba jabba, so this version of the Hero for Hire is set to be off the proverbial chain.
With the battle lines drawn in the human/mutant war, Cage and crew are going out fighting. The list of heroes standing by his side may be surprising. "The villains may include some characters readers think of as heroes," Gage points out. "Also, this isn't just a re-hash of events readers have already seen in other HOUSE OF M books. We're covering 25 years of history, showing not just how Luke Cage and his allies went from criminals to freedom fighters, but how the world itself changed when the age of humans ended and the age of mutants began. Not enough? Let's see...Tigra! Hawkeye! Moon Knight! Shang-Chi vs. Iron Fist! Misty Knight with a huge afro! All drawn by Mike Perkins! If that ain't 'nuff said, I don't know what is, pilgrim!"
Once the book hits selves, it will be the readers' turn to decide if they want to see more stories from the unseen HOUSE OF M. If the book takes off, the possibilities are nearly endless. Bill Rosemann certainly wants you to get into the groove. "It's all up to the readers--so, c'mon, True Believers, if you want more HOUSE OF M, vote with your wallets!"
See Luke Cage and the Avengers rumble with some super-powered jive turkeys in AVENGERS: HOUSE OF M by Christos Gage and Mike Perkins, kicking off in November.
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